But read carefully: Bush "backs" intelligent design but uses mouthpiece Marburger to appeal to the non-whacko Republican base. Pretty humorous.
Bush Remarks Roil Debate on Teaching of Evolution
By ELISABETH BUMILLER
WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 - A sharp debate between scientists and religious conservatives escalated Tuesday over comments by President Bush that the theory of intelligent design should be taught with evolution in the nation's public schools.
In an interview at the White House on Monday with a group of Texas newspaper reporters, Mr. Bush appeared to endorse the push by many of his conservative Christian supporters to give intelligent design equal treatment with the theory of evolution.
Recalling his days as Texas governor, Mr. Bush said in the interview, according to a transcript, "I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught." Asked again by a reporter whether he believed that both sides in the debate between evolution and intelligent design should be taught in the schools, Mr. Bush replied that he did, "so people can understand what the debate is about."
Mr. Bush was pressed as to whether he accepted the view that intelligent design was an alternative to evolution, but he did not directly answer. "I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," he said, adding that "you're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes."
On Tuesday, the president's conservative Christian supporters and the leading institute advancing intelligent design embraced Mr. Bush's comments while scientists and advocates of the separation of church and state disparaged them. At the White House, where intelligent design has been discussed in a weekly Bible study group, Mr. Bush's science adviser, John H. Marburger 3rd, sought to play down the president's remarks as common sense and old news.
Mr. Marburger said in a telephone interview that "evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology" and "intelligent design is not a scientific concept." Mr. Marburger also said that Mr. Bush's remarks should be interpreted to mean that the president believes that intelligent design should be discussed as part of the "social context" in science classes.
Intelligent design, advanced by a group of academics and intellectuals and some biblical creationists, disputes the idea that natural selection - the force Charles Darwin suggested drove evolution - fully explains the complexity of life. Instead, intelligent design proponents say that life is so intricate that only a powerful guiding force, or intelligent designer, could have created it.
Intelligent design does not identify the designer, but critics say the theory is a thinly disguised argument for God and the divine creation of the universe. Invigorated by a recent push by conservatives, the theory has been gaining support in school districts in 20 states, with Kansas in the lead.
Mr. Marburger said it would be "over-interpreting" Mr. Bush's remarks to say that the president believed that intelligent design and evolution should be given equal treatment in schools.
But Mr. Bush's conservative supporters said the president had indicated exactly that in his remarks.
"It's what I've been pushing, it's what a lot of us have been pushing," said Richard Land, the president of the ethics and religious liberties commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Land, who has close ties to the White House, said that evolution "is too often taught as fact," and that "if you're going to teach the Darwinian theory as evolution, teach it as theory. And then teach another theory that has the most support among scientists."
But critics saw Mr. Bush's comment that "both sides" should be taught as the most troubling aspect of his remarks.
"It sounds like you're being fair, but creationism is a sectarian religious viewpoint, and intelligent design is a sectarian religious viewpoint," said Susan Spath, a spokeswoman for the National Center for Science Education, a group that defends the teaching of evolution in public schools. "It's not fair to privilege one religious viewpoint by calling it the other side of evolution."
Ms. Spath added that intelligent design was viewed as more respectable and sophisticated than biblical creationism, but "if you look at their theological and scientific writings, you see that the movement is fundamentally anti-evolution."
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, called the president's comments irresponsible, and said that "when it comes to evolution, there is only one school of scientific thought, and that is evolution occurred and is still occurring." Mr. Lynn added that "when it comes to matters of religion and philosophy, they can be discussed objectively in public schools, but not in biology class."
The Discovery Institute in Seattle, a leader in developing intelligent design, applauded the president's words on Tuesday as a defense of scientists who have been ostracized for advancing the theory.
"We interpret this as the president using his bully pulpit to support freedom of inquiry and free speech about the issue of biological origins," said Stephen Meyer, the director of the institute's Center for Science and Culture. "It's extremely timely and welcome because so many scientists are experiencing recriminations for breaking with Darwinist orthodoxy."
At the White House, intelligent design was the subject of a weekly Bible study class several years ago when Charles W. Colson, the founder and chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries, spoke to the group. Mr. Colson has also written a book, "The Good Life," in which a chapter on intelligent design features Michael Gerson, an evangelical Christian who is an assistant to the president for policy and strategic planning.
"It's part of the buzz of the city among Christians," Mr. Colson said in a telephone interview on Tuesday about intelligent design. "It wouldn't surprise me that it got to George Bush. He reads, he picks stuff up, he talks to people. And he's pretty serious about his own Christian beliefs."